A Brief History
The Distribution System

Simple, Yet Effective

Did You Know?

New York State Beer Wholesalers Association members distribute quality beverages to over 82,000 licensed premises throughout New York State. Over the years the number of brands and packages has exponentially grown. In 1996 distributors carried an average of 190 unique SKUs (stock keeping units), and in 2010 that figure had increased to over 536.* Today, that number has doubled to over 1,000 SKUs per distributor.

The craft beer segment explosion has contributed to this increase and distributors have kept up, becoming more technologically savvy, delivering higher impact and diverse marketing and sales campaigns.

The alcohol distribution system as you’ve just read is expansive but it is also quite simple, and it’s this simplicity that allows for compliance and transparency.

Do you know how your favorite beer gets to your local supermarket, restaurant or bar?

Do you know why Prohibition was enacted and why it failed?

The beer industry has a long and colorful history that is interwoven into America’s history.

We invite you to learn more about how your favorite beverage gets to market!

Prohibition & The Three-Tier System

On January 20, 1920 the United States enacted Prohibition, making the manufacturing, transport and sale of alcohol illegal. Prior to Prohibition the alcohol industry was not regulated and it was common practice for an alcohol manufacturer to own taverns and sell only their product, thus crushing competition and product variety.

The decision to enact Prohibition, a bold social experiment meant to safeguard the public, backfired. Instead of establishing order, Prohibition resulted in havoc. There was an increase in organized crime, corruption amongst law enforcement and the overwhelming prevalence of counterfeit and dangerous product in the marketplace. Furthermore, because there was no oversight, overconsumption was rampant as was alcohol poisoning due to tainted product.

Realizing that public safety was being compromised and tax collection was virtually non-existent, the Federal Government ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution on December 5, 1933, repealing Prohibition. Prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol proved disastrous, but what would be the alternative? 

Alcohol is not like toothpaste or toilet paper. It is not one size fits all, but instead requires regulation to safeguard the public from potential marketplace abuses and contaminated product.

How would the government safeguard its citizens from repeating the counterfeit and corruption issues that arose during Prohibition? The answer: the three-tier system. Learn how it works.

* Best Practices in Managing an Expanded Product Portfolio, Sponsored by the Beer Industry Electronic Commerce Coalition.